Feel that? Brisk spring temperatures are beginning to give way to warmer summer weather, and that means opportunities for balcony dinners, picnics in the park, and BBQs in the backyard. And even though outdoor entertaining means different things to different people, depending upon the amount of space you call your own, almost any party benefits from adding music to the mix. In the age of MP3 your smartphone can become the ultimate party DJ when partnered with the right portable speaker (and a well curated playlist), so we've gathered the best of the portable and wireless available now and coming soon...
Jawbone Big Jambox
The newly released big brother of the original Jawbone Jambox, everything I liked about the original has been just upgraded to a larger size (and sound) with this latest iteration of Yves Behar's hallmark design. For the last week I've been using the Big Jambox during conference calls in speakerphone mode (built-in microphone), streaming music during the work day from my computer, and at the end of the day unplugging and carrying it out to the backyard for some music while dining al fresco via Bluetooth from my phone's playlist (up to 15 hours per charge and rated for 33 feet wireless range). Available in Graphite Hex, White Wave and Red Dot for $299.99.
Outdoor Technology Turtle Shell
Unveiled at this year's CES, extreme sports accessory brand Outdoor Technologies is calling their Turtle Shell a "wireless boom box": waterproof, shockproof, and dust-resistant Bluetooth speaker designed for rugged on-the-go outdoor use (Outdoor Technologies displayed it strapped onto a BMX bike and even mention wearing it clipped onto the chest as a speaker medallion). 10 Hours of playback with 240 hours of standby via mini-USB, the Turtle Shell spacer is unfortunately a late summer bloomer, targeted to be released at the tail end of summer this year for around $130.
The Bose SoundLink appears to be the handsome offspring of a fashionable mod clutch purse and a Braun-designed audio tape player from the late 60's. Open up the front nylon flap (available in 4 optional colors) and turn on the unit, the SoundLink automatically goes into Bluetooth pairing mode, searching for your iPhone, Android, tablet, or laptop for wireless audio use, and remembering up to 6 devices. Being one of the larger, louder speakers of the bunch, the rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides a modest "up to" 8 hours playback (half that if pushed to the upper volume range). The minimalist design hides four neodymium transducers, two passive radiators, and a DSP, offering capable audio playback for any type of music except for primarily bass-heavy music, the SoundLink is perfectly suited for backyard or picnic performance duties. Starting at $299.
No, it's not a speaker from Stankonia, but the funky-looking OutCast does stand apart from the other smaller sized speakers here in shape and features. Sold with an iDevice dock (wirelessly transmitting music via 2.4GHz band), the OutCast is a large multidirectional patio speaker with a weather-resistant case, loud enough to pump out tunes up to 300 feet thanks to a 100 watt digital amplifier. And unlike the smaller competition, this more seriously equipped unit has a 8" downward firing woofer to reproduce a respectable low end for up to 10 hours of playback. The OutCast is listed as "portable", but at over 25lbs, remember to bend the knees when lifting, Big Boi. $999.99
I had this Scandinavian Airplay speaker as a house guest for a month for review and the plush speaker won points for its decor-friendly design and easy to setup simplicity. If you're an unabashed *Wallpaper magazine subscribing, barista, iPhone-toting aesthete looking for a portable wireless audio option, the Libratone Live is probably going to be on your short list of possibilities. The Live even comes with a handle for easy pick up (and you'll need it, since it weighs 14lbs) and it's triangular design produces a discernible 360º sound, perfect for gatherings indoors or outdoors, when people are situated all around. $699 ($799 for cashmere units).
Ion Audio Mobile LP
Vinyl continues to grow as a niche market, and we're guessing more than a few of you Apartment Therapy readers have a collection of LPs to enjoy when digital fails to satisfy. The ION Audio Mobile LP is picnic blanket ready, complete with carrying case and battery power operation. When back at home, the Mobile LP can be plugged into Windows or OS X computers for LP to digital file format transfer via USV and included EZ Vinyl Converter. $99.99
Other portable and wireless audio options:
Braven 625S Outdoor Speaker
Logitech UE Air Speaker
HiddenRadio & Bluetooth Speaker
Images: Laure Joliet for Jawbone; as listed by manufacturer above.